Over the years, I have written physical education curriculum, led workshops, and developed youth development programs with intentional connections to Dr. Don Hellison's Personal & Social Responsibility instructional model. Why? I am firmly committed to providing curriculum and programs that support physical literacy development. Given that physical literacy is much more comprehensive than being a competent mover with proficient games sense, placing energy on personal and social responsibility in programs is well warranted.
When individuals read the most current SHAPE America's national physical education standards, they can see that the National organization is dedicated to ensuring that physical literacy is the intent of physical education programs throughout the country.
Standard 1 - The physically literate individual demonstrates competency in a variety of motor skills and movement patterns.
Standard 4 - The physically literate individual exhibits personal and social behavior that respects self and others.
Thus, it makes sense that in every physical education lesson student learning is not only focused on developing competent movers who know how to apply competent movement in games, dances, and other settings, but also developing positive personal and social behaviors among students.
...let's back up for a minute.
I moved to St Louis three years ago. While following the events in Ferguson over the past year, I felt - and continue to feel - helpless. As someone who works in sport and physical education, I wonder how many children and youth have been stripped of fun through play over the past year. As a mother, I am emotional knowing how much potential these youth have, and how much they are loved. As a member of the community, I am ashamed that I've sat back educating myself and watching events unfold all the while going on about my life. While I don't take myself too seriously, if I can do my small part to serve this city through Move Live Learn, I might be able to make a positive impact on youth who are most marginalized and who deserve more advocates in their corner. Health inequities are impossible to ignore in this country, and while I am not sure when what we know will change what we do - I am sure that it's time to at least make an attempt to see some changes.
Then, I learned about North Campus.
North Campus is a community centered around education. It provides access to tutoring, recreation, sport, and other activities as an after-school and summer camp space for youth in grades 3-8 in the O'Fallon Park neighborhood in North City, St. Louis. Recently, youth who access North Campus have: put on a Shakespeare play, conducted community service, and received free vision screenings and glasses. Their modest facilities continue to grow in order to serve more youth.
A Call to Action
I read a Tweet this morning looking for donations for the North Campus' Amazon WishList. As I examined their wish list, I wondered if I could somehow help to increase their physical activity equipment to help them normalize physical activity and play during the after-school and summer periods for youth who access the community center.
Since curriculum in physical education supports personal and social responsibility, wouldn't it be amazing for all Team #PhysEd members, as well as youth sport coaches, to consider a service learning project to help meet Standard 4? Thus, if you teach elementary, middle or high school, please consider having students come up with ways they can raise funds to purchase physical activity equipment for North Campus. The reality? Kids are awesome. Kids love. So, why not help them channel that through service before they are taught to hate?
What can we do?
The sky is the limit and your students and athletes will probably have wonderful ideas! You might consider hosting a planning session with them. Maybe older youth can host a 10-minute walk/run activity and local businesses sponsor the event where youth try to reach their goals. Sponsorship funds could go to North Campus. Or, perhaps a walk-or-run-a-thon with sponsors solicited throughout the community. You might want to make a more intentional connection to movement and tactical competencies being taught in your lessons which also makes great sense. The key is that the youth have a voice in what is done, how it is done, and related goals for the experience.
What if we have minimal equipment ourselves?
Understanding that many PE programs and youth sport teams have less than ideal quantities of equipment, it might make more sense to simply set a goal to raise funds for one piece of equipment or split proceeds of an event between a school and North Campus. North Campus would like to expand their yoga program to all students and currently are short yoga mats. While it does not have a specific space designated to recreation, they are able to turn a vacant lot into a play space with equipment such as jump ropes, basketballs, frisbees and other equipment that is easy to move to the space. In other words, while you help your students meet standards 1 and 4, you can also help the youth who access North Campus to work meet standard 1.
It is important that we teach our students, athletes, and children that while we may not always have the right words, and we may not know what to do in order to positively contribute to our community, that we can reach out and make a small positive impact. Together, we might just make a difference.
What if I don't teach PE or coach? What if I teach or coach outside of the US?
If you are not a physical education teacher or coach, or don't live in the US, but would like to help by donating, volunteering, or partnering with North Campus, please do so here. Keep in mind that while you might not be charged with teaching to NASPE's standards, I am very confident such a project would absolutely meet outcomes mandated through your curriculum. If you are a parent and would like to find creative ways to raise funds to help increase opportunity for youth to play, go for it!
Please, everyone, comment below to share how you plan to teach personal and social responsibility through a service learning project. How will you help increase positive personal and social behaviors while developing movement and tactical competence in your lessons / practices / parenting? Youth are a community's most precious asset. It's time we all invest in them accordingly.